You guys were such good sports (and so helpful!) last week when I asked for you opinions about my updated entryway decor that I thought I’d give it another shot this week—this time with the built-in shelving in our living room.

As a quick refresher (or in case you’ve never seen it) here’s what they looked like when I first “completed” this room (is a room ever complete? I think not).


I didn’t want to buy anything new for the shelves, and the decision to rearrange them was a bit spur-of-the-moment, so I mostly just took what was already on there and rearranged it a bit (I did pull a few things from other places too). So, now it looks like this:

watermarked version

Pretty similar, right? The most notable additions are my Barnes and Noble leather bound book collection, which used to find a home on the opposite side of the room. Oh, and my Anthropologie Trinket and Treasure candlestick knock-offs, which have migrated all over the house at this point.

Of course, both of those additions add a considerable pop of color and height, which makes me really happy…with the top two shelves, anyway. I’ll show you a few more shots of the close-ups, and then you guys can weigh in (please?).


As with everything in my house, pretty much every item on this shelf is either thrifted, DIYed, or from Hobby Lobby’s 90% off decor aisle. My favorite details here are the bicycles (both from Goodwill, although I got them on two separate trips, oddly enough).


I’m also a pretty big fan of my $2 “Bountiful Blessings” pumpkin candle (75% off from Lifeway), my key art (Hobby Lobby, 90% off), and my scrapbook-page-covered books.


The “Family” sign is from Goodwill too—probably a whopping 80 cents. I gave it a coat of spray paint in the closest thing to ivory that I could find at the time, but since discovering Krylon’s Dover White, I think I may have to go back and repaint it soon. It would pop a lot more if it were a crisper color, I think.


Aaaaaah. I really like the light-colored accents with the jolts of jewel-tone colors from those gorgeous books.


I also stole my Goodwill lamps from my entryway buffet, and I’m loving the way the light catches the gold flecks on their bases.


When in doubt, always buys $4 pink carnations from the grocery store. I guarantee you an instant mood lift.


When I did the “knob tour” of my house a while back, several people asked for a close up of this collage of me and Della. My best friend from childhood shot these pictures for us almost two years ago, and I put them together for Shaun for Father’s Day…two years ago. Man, time flies!

Okay, so what do I need your help with this time?

Weeeeeellll, that’s the thing. I don’t really know.

As I said, I really like the top two shelves, but the lower the shelving goes, the less happy I am with it. There’s just a lot of space to fill, but the last three shelves are considerably shorter, which makes it harder to use large accent pieces to fill lots of space like I did at the top. and that means smaller items and more of them, which gives it a bit of a cluttered look.

Eclectic, I dig. Knickknacky? Not so much.

So tell me: am I overanalyzing? (Okay, I think we all know the answer to that is yes; it’s just a shelf).

But I know you brilliant people can give me some great suggestions for simplifying without killing the funky vibe I like so much.  

Here it is the whole-shelf shot again with my thoughts so far:

captioned version

So, what do you think? Leave well enough alone? Or keep tweaking?


  1. On the 5th shelf down, I would separate the books into two different sets with the picture frame in between them. Then I would possibly take the little chair from the 4th shelf and move it down to the other side of the 5th shelf for uniformity. However, you may not like two chairs on the same self, in which case I would just move the green/teal vase or figurines or whatever those are over to the other side. I think that would help “simplify” the shelf without losing anything that’s already there. 🙂

  2. You arranged them just like I did mine. All the things in the middle,with all the frames facing inward. It looks too symmetrical. Just like mine!

  3. Ok, top shelf, I think the mirror is fine. BUT I would do one of two things. Either switch the two outer candle sticks so you have shorter on the side with the bigger object and taller on the side with the smaller frame to kinda balance it OR put both the mirror and frame on the one side and the candle sticks on the other and something small in the middle. (Wow! Big giant run together non sent acne for you…) I did notice like others said everything is centered quite a bit (which I tend to like/do myself) but I don’t think a couple centered shelves hurt if you come up with variety on the other shelves. I would NOT do matching frames or you would lose a lot of color and interest. I feel like the shelves are mostly fine until the one under the key shelf. Maybe you DON’T need MORE smaller items on the shorter shelves. Seems like that may just clutter them. I thought maybe push the books (or some of them) to one side and then maybe just one basket or cute storage box and then a stack of books or something (you’d have to play with balancing it right). I agree with the other poster who said maybe a whole row of baskets on the bottom but not on the shelf you had mentioned. You could stagger baskets up about 3 different shelves as well to balance things and maybe add more books in without it getting boring.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  4. Hi Abbie,

    I would vote yes for the baskets on the bottom shelf and maybe separate the books on the one before the last and place the accents in the middle instead of grouping the books in the middle.

    Or two shelves of baskets, you can never have enough.

    all in all I like it a lot

  5. Do you have more books you could fill the bottom shelves with? When we finally rounded up all our books and put them all on the same shelves, it helped tone down my accents. I think they look great already 🙂

  6. It doesn’t really look like you….it’s kind of boring (and you are not!). I love the idea of painting behind the shelves. Whatever you decide I think it needs some more color.

  7. My first thought was also to put the plate in the center. The Amazing Grace sign would be cute in front of it. I also like the mismatched frames. It looks lovely!

    1. I’m thinking you’re right about layering the Amazing Grace sign. I had it that way before (with something else behind it), and I really liked it.

  8. Everyone’s suggestions are fabulous!! Y’all can come to my house and help me decorate 😉

    My suggestion would be to do something with the books. Either make more horizontal stacks, or move the two big rows of them each to one side to balance them out. Like…one shelf of the books all the way on the left, and the other section of books to the right.

  9. I’m a recent follower of your blog…within the last year. I just wanted to say I find you real and encouraging and very entertaining. I have 6 girls..yes all girls (I related very much to your post on questions such as “so are you trying for a boy?” 🙂 They are all very close in age and it is amusing to hear your stories of going out and about…I could be reading my very own life story! all this to say I love your blog…and I agree that books “piled” in stacks here and there is far more appealing…

    1. Oh, Heidigirl, THANK YOU for taking the time to leave such an encouraging comment!

      I’m so glad you can relate to my antics. : )

      And 6 girls??? You go, mama!

  10. I did comment on FB, but after reading everyone’s BRILLIANT suggestions (seriously, can I post a pic on your blog and get these amazing ladies to answer??? AWESOME!!), I would add to my thoughts:

    So, first, I would paint the back of the built ins…it would make everything pop (in the right way)! Then, I noticed there is quite a bit of symmetry, which could be tweaked (like others said, sliding the books to one side of the shelf, and the other group of books to the OTHER side of the shelf…plus, maybe putting books under another item to give more heights)…

    Then, in my opinion, I might just take a few items off…it’s hard to notice anything in particular with so many items on there…maybe less books so there’s more space between items on some of the shelves?

    Last, according to your question bubble on the picture, I WOULD put one large item across one of the shelves…I don’t think it has to be the bottom shelf (where no one would really see it…). I think it would be nice to have one simple shelf, either the second from top or second from bottom…

    Can’t wait to see how you finish it…very fun to watch little transformations that can make SUCH big impacts 🙂

  11. I agree w/ prev poster about painting the wall behind the shelves. If you don’t wanna paint, get some of that foam-core poster board stuff and paint it, cover in fabric or scrapbook paper so it isn’t permanent. I think yellow would look awesome or maybe a green like in the frame on the 3rd shelf??
    Also, I would stack the row of books in a few little clusters and then you might have move a few else where so there aren’t too many….(too many books on a bookshelf?? What??)
    Also, I think it needs something natural/green. Like a few small potted plants. They don’t even have to be alive. I got some cheap tiny terracotta pots, spray painted them, added foam and then fake greenery (Hobby Lobby has some that looks really nice). I added them around the house and they added so much.
    A basket would also be nice, but it would have to be really low b/c I don’t think you want a full storage basket. Except for maybe on the bottom shelf for storage where we can’t see.
    When you take out some of the books, I would add like a little owl or bird here & there along w/ the plants. Maybe you could find one at Goodwill. I found a cute brass 3″ one 🙂
    OK, well, not even sure if all of that will look good, but it sure does in my head 🙂 I love decorating your house!

    1. Leigh Anne, you sweetheart! You always leave the best, most thoughtful comments. So glad you get a kick out of decorating my house! : )

  12. I would spray paint all the frames the same cream/white colour,put the books in “piles” instead of standing them up and you have organized things a little “center” heavy so that it looks too full down the middle of the bookcase. Still, I love what you have done with it…I think you are very brave to ask for suggestions. Everyone has a better idea to share sometimes 🙂

  13. Ok, my comment disappeared. Long story short, more books layered in! Would you like me to come assist you by holding babies while you arrange? Also- those lamps. Don’t ever get rid of them. But if you do, think of me 🙂

  14. Those photos of you and your daughter are beautiful Abbie! I need to have something like that done with my toddler boys (I’m usually the one snapping away!) And on a total side note: for a year in 5th grade I somehow convinced my teacher that my name spelling was Abbie as opposed to my real name spelling of Abbey. I thought it looked a lot cooler. 🙂

    As for the shelf, FleurCottage has a great point, that mirror at the top would look nice and balanced if it were centered. And I think baskets would be a good addition too.

    1. Abbey, you know something? I’ve always loved the way my name is spelled. I don’t know why, but I just do. : ) Thanks for the suggestions!

  15. Ok… MY recommendation is to paint the back of the shelf a solid bright color! Yellow? Turquoise? It would be amazing. Just do it. 🙂 Also, I like to have some books stacked in little groupings here and there instead of having them all lined up all the time. Just a thought. I think it looks pretty decent the way you have it to be honest.

    P.S… love your new ‘welcome’ picture on the sidebar!

I love hearing from you guys!